Miliband Minor and the living wage campaign

I am a signed-up supporter of Ed Miliband’s campaign for the Labour Party leadership, even though I’m not a member of the Labour Party, and have no intention of joining that pitiful body. I just think that Miliband Minor is an outstanding political worker as well as figurehead, and feel that the party could do with someone like him in charge.

Ed’s brother David (aka Miliband Major) would in my view also make an excellent party leader, but I’m not so sure about his relative ability as a political doer. Labour needs more than another suit with a gob who can rally the troops and speak well to camera, no matter how charming and charismatic.

As a declared supported of Miliband Minor’s candidacy, I receive regular emails from his campaign HQ, including the one received this morning which I reproduce below…

“In Britain in 2010, over 5 million workers are paid under £7 an hour. And yet, studies show that people need £7.14 — at the very, very least — to fulfil their most basic needs: food, clothing and housing.

The Labour Party, even in opposition, is in a position to do something about this injustice — and to campaign to transform the lives of some of the lowest paid workers in the country.

That’s the sort of Labour Party I believe in, and that’s the sort of party I am seeking to lead — one that engages in communities and campaigns for real change in people’s lives.

That’s why, on Friday, I launched an important campaign for a living wage at an event in London. There was real support for the campaign and the launch was heavily oversubscribed.

But for our living wage campaign to succeed, I need you to take a stake in it — and to take it to your own communities and networks.

There are two crucial ways we need you to support the campaign at this stage. First, we need you to sign the petition to show you support the living wage:

http://livingwage.edmiliband.org/

Once you’ve done that, we really need you to help us build momentum behind this campaign, by forwarding this email and inviting ten of your friends to join you in signing up, by tweeting and Facebooking your support for the living wage, and by asking people you know to join the Labour Party.

We are not the first to campaign for a living wage, and I know we won’t be the last. But I hope we can share and spread the belief that the Labour Party can add to this campaign for fairness — and reconnect as a transformative force for good in this country.

Many thanks for your support,

Ed”

My initial reaction is to say that I cannot endorse the call for people to join the Labour Party. In fact I wouldn’t encourage you to commit on paper to any party, but instead urge people to get involved politically at local and other levels, even to the smallest degree. Whatever you can do and are willing to commit to, given your personal circumstances.

Being actively involved in civil society is not the same as pledging allegiance to a rigid, corporate entity. What I would very much like to see is the evolution of Europe’s political parties into loose federations, with ‘whips’ reserved for sexual gratification among consenting adults.

One of the criticisms made by party animals of non-partisan organisations within civil society is that the latter are single-issue pressure groups. That’s just silly, as without specialist groups policy development within parties would be incredibly shallow. Political parties within democratic societies cannot function without outside input from those who know what they’re talking about.

Political parties are election machines; that is what they are good at, and it is on elections that they should concentrate. So why not abandon the ridiculous and anti-democratic idea of parties as all-encompassing, ideologically-driven movements? The Labour Party long ago ceased being a movement of the British working class, and it is pointless harking back to a bygone era.

European civil society is sophisticated and mature, and to its credit heterogeneous. But in political terms we appear to have run into a brick wall, the demolition of which will require creative thinking and the abandonment of the urge for parties to coral and control civil society.

If you are not already a member of a political party, maybe it’s better not to join one, but instead get involved locally in one or more pet projects that have a political angle, and feed the output of your individual and collective work into the parties. That is, force the political parties to adapt to a new political reality, instead of banging your head against the brick wall in the hope of changing these top-down corporations from within.

Moving on now to Ed Miliband’s “living wage” campaign. As Labour’s would-be leader acknowledges above, the living wage campaign has been underway for some time now. Yet while in government – a government in which Ed Miliband played a leading role – the Labour Party opposed the calls for a living wage. It now appears as if Ed and his followers are attempting to hijack the living wage campaign and claim it as their own.

If Ed Miliband is not looking to hijack the living wage campaign, but is instead genuinely lending his support, then he should state clearly that the Labour’s previous opposition to the campaign was wrong. This ties in with my comment above about political parties and their desire to coral and control civil society.

So come on Ed, if you are serious about the need for a politics fit for the 21st century, I suggest that you quit with the bullshit sloganeering, and do what you’re best at: i.e., listening to others, and leading through the building of political consensus. Leave the soundbites to your big brother, and let him choke on them.